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Adoption as a First Choice

Older child adoption as a first choice


My husband and I have adopted 5 children at ages ranging from 8 to 14 from foster care. They are all now adults (ages ranging from 25 to 47) so we’ve had time to think about what we were doing and would do it that way again.
We first chose adoption because we were both working full-time, neither of us is especially in love with babies (except our grands, but even then a few hours is plenty), and we knew there were plenty of kids in foster care who needed parents. After we’d started on this route, a number of genetic problems came up in his family that made us even more positive about our choices.
We did not adopt all of our kids at once: our first daughter came as a foster child but when she disrupted from an abusive adoption we grabbed the opportunity to make her a permanent part of our family. Next was our first son, who came as a foster-adopt placement. He has 3 sibs, 2 of whom were also available, but after having them visit for several weeks we knew we could only take him, though we are in touch with the others (they’re all now in their 30s). Our next 2 daughters are bio half-sibs, and at some point our adoption worker asked about the youngest child we’d consider. I said as long as they were old enough to be in school, age wasn’t the issue, but they had to be able to reach the controls on the washer and dryer.  I was serious: as working parents, the amount of time we had with our kids was limited, and the less that had to be spent on physical maintenance, the more their was for bonding and fun. We thought that was it, but after all but youngest daughter had become adults and moved out, we found our younger son, who was just so obviously meant to be part of our family that we had to adopt him. 
Another advantage of adopting older kids, also, is that you can pick people whose interests and talents are at least somewhat aligned with yours. For instance, we both like to read and are not very athletic, but are involved with art and music, so we knew something about the sort of child who’d fit in our family, and that turned out to be a good thing. 

Anyway, that was our reasoning and it’s worked for us. Our older 4 are now, after some rocky places, functional adults with jobs and children of their own.
Our youngest, who had perhaps the most abusive childhood and suffers from PTSD in addition to some fetal alcohol and attachment issues, is still, at 25, very much a work in progress. If he were our first, we’d probably be frantic, but parenting the other 4 has changed our perspective about adulthood and we figure he may yet grow up.

I’d be very interested in hearing from others who have deliberately taken this route.

Replies

Thanks for sharing your thoughtful perspective! My wife and I have always considered adoption our first choice, but only very recently started to think that an older child might be the best fit for us. We haven’t started the process yet (we plan to do so about one year from now). It’s certainly encouraging and helpful to hear from others who have been down this road by choice.

Posted by willedp on Dec 19, 2016 at 1:38pm

What a great story- thanks for sharing it!
My wife and I have spent the last 2 months having weekend custody of a sibling set ages 5, 6, and 9 and they move in officially on dec 26th! We are super excited! Also not in love with babies and wanting to fill the gaps that most needed filling, older sibling adoption is where we felt we would fit. Not official yet, but we plan on adopting the kids this year!

Posted by 3packattack on Dec 19, 2016 at 5:08pm

I have just been matched with a young toddler, and of course I am happy and excited, but honestly I would have preferred it if she were older. I was looking for a 5 to 7 year old but came across this little one and she is otherwise perfect so here we are. I’ve had to reimagine how I picture our family, and am confident it will be good. But everyone keeps telling me how thrilled I must be to be “getting a baby” and they just can’t understand that not everyone who adopts wants a newborn!

Posted by rn4kidz on Dec 19, 2016 at 8:07pm

@3packattack and @rn4kidz, congratulations to both of you! Very exciting times. I hope you both start your own threads in this forum, because I’m fascinated to hear about the process of becoming a family with these new kids.

Posted by willedp on Dec 19, 2016 at 8:41pm

Wow I love your view on this.  This opens up a whole other group to adopt children.  Older, working people adopting older kids with similar personalities and interests.  I wish more people could see your post and look to adopt older kids.

Posted by C3 on Dec 20, 2016 at 4:43pm

rn4kidz
Congratulations.If you haven’t already you should read Toddler Adoption by Hopkins-Best Toddlers are not babies and their early developmental tasks (social and emotional) are often way behind depending on if there was neglect, abuse multiple placements etc.

Posted by Regina on Dec 21, 2016 at 2:34am

I’ve just entered a couple of pics in the 2016 Holiday contest, so if you go there you can see our incredibly gorgeous GREAT_GRANDDAUGHTER! (my husband calls her one of our “dividend checks” from adoption) by herself and with her grandmother, our oldest daughter. It’s pretty wonderful to reach this stage, I have to say.
And BTW, in the realm of books, the one that saved my sanity, especially with our middle daughter, is “Positive Discipline”.(There’s a FB and/or online group now too). There are versions for toddlers and teens, too. You will have many books recommended, including the “Love & Logic” series. “Positive Discipline” is kind of like “Love & Logic” with some warm fuzzies.  It’s not specifically aimed at adoptive parents, but the author, Jane Smith(?) I think her name’s changed) is a mom of 7 and an Adlerian psychologist with an Ed.D. Adler., of the big 3 (Freud, Jung, Adler) was the only one who based his research on “normal” rather than disturbed individuals, and I like the perspective. My favorite line is “A misbehaving child is an unhappy child.”

Posted by Leslie S. on Dec 21, 2016 at 10:25am

thanks regina, I read it a few years ago and am working on it again now!

Posted by rn4kidz on Dec 22, 2016 at 1:37am

Personally, it bugs me how any child older than a toddler is considered an “older child” adoption. I adopted my son last year when he was 16, which is vastly different from adopting my daughter who just turning 6 today (her adoption is eminent, but pending, along with her brother who is 2). My son came to me at 14 years old, already having spend a significant marinating in the dysfunction of his family. It became his normal and still to this day he claims to not see the dysfunction, siting it normal. Often times I feel superfluous, since I’ve had such a small part in raising him. My job in trying to instill solid moral codes is rebuffed by more resistance than just teenage know-it-all-ism. I agree there are many pro’s to adopting an older child, including better matching of personalities, likes and dislikes.

One last thing I will add. When I decided to adopt I had informed my agency that I was willing to adopt a child or small sibling group under the age of 8. My intention was never to adopt a teenager. But, I was willing to take in any age child for respite and that is how I met my son. We hit it off immediately and although I was reluctant, he moved in as a foster care placement and quickly moved to a pre-adoptive placement and now my son. I think sometimes we just have to have open hearts to the things we didn’t think we would want and the right situations will find us. I was reluctant, but open and that brought me my amazing son.

Posted by AshleyLM on Dec 22, 2016 at 3:54pm

AshleyLM good for you to help him. You will be his mom after 18 so don’t think you will have no influence on him after that. He will be better for having you in his life.

Posted by Regina on Dec 22, 2016 at 4:07pm

AshleyM I hear you!  Our oldest daughter came at 14 as what was supposed to be a temp situation.
What I know now (as we prepare to go to her house with grands & great-grand for Christmas) is that it takes them approximately as long as they were old when they came to you to feel that you are really and truly their family.
Your son will always be part of his birth family, & more so if he was with them for 14 years (no foster care?) but he will become, in his own mind and heart, more part of your family as time goes on. Prepare to be rejected for a while when he becomes an “adult”—just be patient & reiterate that he can’t get rid of you so easily—he’ll be back.
We ask these teens (and even tweens) to do something really difficult. Their developmental task is to break away and figure out who they are and what they believe and think, while we are asking them, at the same time, to connect and bond with a new family, something that’s normally done when much younger.  Love, talk, Positive Parenting for Teens, and a good counsellor will get you through it and the rewards on the other side are immense.
BTW, we always had family counselling, so no child was “the problem”. They could choose to have individual sessions or part of sessions, & our counsellor could request parent time, kid time, individual time etc. when she thought it was needed. That worked pretty well.  The other thing we did that really worked was to schedule our counselling appointments right after work/daycare/afterschool programs, and go out to dinner afterward. No one ever chose not to go, and, since we live in a city with many choices of low-priced restaurants, it was also an opportunity to introduce them to many different cuisines.  Win-win all the way.

Posted by Leslie S. on Dec 23, 2016 at 3:18am

My 12 year old daughter has been with me for 5.5 months (at 6 months I get to apply to adopt her officially) and everything you’ve said resonated with me.  I deliberately chose an older child adoption, because babies just aren’t that interesting to me.  To be honest, my daughter chose me and not the other way around, at an adoption party (those are pretty normal here in MA - anyone who has questions about them can PM me). 

I agree on the family counselling and will grab positive parenting next time I’m at the library.

Posted by nsparks on Jan 06, 2017 at 3:26pm

My husband and I sought the older minority children. We’ve been married 23 years now and have adopted 13 children. Our children’s ages ranged from newborn to age 16 at adoption. (Specifically, newborn, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 9,10, 10, 10, and 16.) I wrote PHOENIX BOUND: An adoptive mom of 13 shares her struggle raising traumatized children, to help other adoptive families, friends and neighbors of adoptive families and professionals working with our families. Adoption was always my first choice and adopting older children was always our first choice.

Posted by AKE on Jan 06, 2017 at 7:30pm

Well this is an interesting post. I was wondering why I didn’t notice it earlier…but then I realized I’ve been over my head this last month with my 16yo dd (adopted about a year ago).

She’s been on a raging, abusive, bender, basically about getting someone to give her a cell phone without my permission. (She knows she wasn’t allowed to - as she has to follow a few basic rules about polite and responsible behavior first.)The separation she expected put her into a mean rage and then when I found out I did demand that she give it to me…which drove her over the edge. She even put in false reports to her school and hence DCF about the abuse and neglect she suffers here. Lots of fun!

I didn’t particularly want a newborn…but also didn’t want to adopt a teen - turned down several but when I saw her, I felt she was the one for me. She has several major medical disabilities (some no one mentioned) - but is doing better than anyone expected or usually does with these conditions, is getting straight A’s in school, but the severe attachment disorder (also unmentioned) is hell, and the level of intense impulsiveness and the work to see minimal progress makes me suspect Fetal Alcohol Effects. She’s got a great sense of humor, perceptive, smart, talented, a great cook, kind, vivacious spirt, and is fun to be around and considerate when she wants to be.

I morn not having adopted a younger child. Wish there was more than me to parent this family. Am having the hardest time making time for anything else in my life.Haven’t had even one day off in over a year. Worry that she will never be able to live independently. And if it takes 15 years for her to adjust to being in this family…I will be nearly 80 then!

She once wrote me a note (her preferred method of communication in her 4 day melt downs) saying that I was “stubbord,” but she was “even more stubboder”! Now there she was wrong! smile  I am clearly possessed with the will to be the stubbodest one by far in our family when it comes to fighting for her. I’d love any words of wisdom Leslie S, re: parenting your last child.

Posted by Happy Camper on Jan 07, 2017 at 5:24am
Posted by Happy Camper on Jan 07, 2017 at 5:24am

Happy Camper, this sounds oh so familiar!
My advice is, first, to have good experiences with her not as rewards (she’ll sabotage those) but as requirements—today we’re going to .....whatever you enjoy doing together. (For our middle daughter, this was often limited to staying up late, wathcing what I call great dancing no plot necessary movies & eating chocolate. Only kid we’ve ever dealt with who could have a tantrum while being bought new clothes that she picked out). But anything—making cookies, playing a game, going to a museum, whatever. These are the attachment pieces neither of you got when she was little, so you need to fill up a bank of positve memories to get you through the worst times.
If she’s getting straight As I’d doubt fetal alcohol—our kids with that have what’s often called swiss cheese brain. Stuff they know drops through the holes and has to be learned over and over.
Attachment is a really hard one: These kids have had to take care of themselves to the extent that they fear (literally) for their lives if they got close enough to trust and depend on someone else. It’s entirely possible that her meltdowns are a good sign—she’s terrified because you’re getting close/she’s getting attached and has to push you away as hard as she can. Again, tell her you’ll be around when she’s done.
Do get a copy (try Better World Books, online—under $5- usually & they’ll send a book to an underserved area or country for every one you buy) of Positive Discipline & Positive Discipline for Teens.
Also check out their website—they have blogs & workshops and more these days.
When she’s being most awful, you might say, as I did to my daughter, “It’s really hard dealing with you at the moment, but I think it’s probably harder actually being you.”  That made her jaw drop & opened things up between us—she was still never an easy kid, but now claims I’m her role model (but doesn’t return phone calls, though she’s more than happy to talk if she happens to pick up—go figure!0
It may not get easier until she’s an adult—or it may—but you appreciate her good points and enjoy her company when it’s civil, so you will both come through and you will look back on it as the hardest and most rewarding thing you ever did.
Hang in there!  And feel free to ask for support as needed.

Posted by Leslie S. on Jan 08, 2017 at 1:27pm

Happy Camper, this sounds oh so familiar!
My advice is, first, to have good experiences with her not as rewards (she’ll sabotage those) but as requirements—today we’re going to .....whatever you enjoy doing together. (For our middle daughter, this was often limited to staying up late, wathcing what I call great dancing no plot necessary movies & eating chocolate. Only kid we’ve ever dealt with who could have a tantrum while being bought new clothes that she picked out). But anything—making cookies, playing a game, going to a museum, whatever. These are the attachment pieces neither of you got when she was little, so you need to fill up a bank of positve memories to get you through the worst times.
If she’s getting straight As I’d doubt fetal alcohol—our kids with that have what’s often called swiss cheese brain. Stuff they know drops through the holes and has to be learned over and over.
Attachment is a really hard one: These kids have had to take care of themselves to the extent that they fear (literally) for their lives if they got close enough to trust and depend on someone else. It’s entirely possible that her meltdowns are a good sign—she’s terrified because you’re getting close/she’s getting attached and has to push you away as hard as she can. Again, tell her you’ll be around when she’s done.
Do get a copy (try Better World Books, online—under $5- usually & they’ll send a book to an underserved area or country for every one you buy) of Positive Discipline & Positive Discipline for Teens.
Also check out their website—they have blogs & workshops and more these days.
When she’s being most awful, you might say, as I did to my daughter, “It’s really hard dealing with you at the moment, but I think it’s probably harder actually being you.”  That made her jaw drop & opened things up between us—she was still never an easy kid, but now claims I’m her role model (but doesn’t return phone calls, though she’s more than happy to talk if she happens to pick up—go figure!0
It may not get easier until she’s an adult—or it may—but you appreciate her good points and enjoy her company when it’s civil, so you will both come through and you will look back on it as the hardest and most rewarding thing you ever did.
Hang in there!  And feel free to ask for support as needed.

Posted by Leslie S. on Jan 08, 2017 at 1:27pm

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